For the 200th issue of The Gooner, we invited a number of contributors to recall their most vivid memory which happened as a result of their involvement with The Gooner
Kevin Whitcher — Editor, Issues 104 to date
With an eye on sales, weather forecasts the night before home matches are must-see viewing in Gooner Towers, not least because if there is a chance of rain, measures must be taken to protect the issues from getting sodden when the sellers hit the streets. One storm I shall never forget saw a good number of issue 46 take a bath and a half. It was the David O'Leary testimonial against Manchester United in May 1993, and we suffered a torrential storm. So much so that after that, if we anticipated a particularly heavy down- pour, we braced ourselves for another “O'Leary”!
Mike Francis — Editor, Issues 1 to 103
It's nigh on impossible to narrow it down to one memory because there have been so many. However, I'll go for the occasion of the 1993 FA cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday and in particular the moment when the best part of 16,000 Arsenal fans held up cards which The Gooner, after a ridiculous number of phone calls, had managed to get into Wembley that morning and turned our end red and white. I also think it proved to be a defining moment in the relationship between club and fanzine because it made them realise that we were behind them and should not be treated as an enemy or a threat.
It has to be the epic trip to Vienna to see Arsenal play the first away game after the English Club ban in Europe was lifted with the now Editor, Dave B, lan Trevett (erstwhile of this Parish) and his Chelsea supporting mate. Abandoning the “Kaput” car on the Belgium border; persuading a lorry driver to smuggle Gooner tee-shirts through customs; driving 1,200 miles with 5 people in a Vauxhall Corsa, Explaining why we had a car return ticket for the ferry... and no car. And all done with no tickets for the match before getting to Vienna!
I've done plenty of TV and radio appearances in my guise as a writer for The Gooner but my favourite would have to be the time I was on Five Live as an Arsenal correspondent the day after Liverpool knocked us out of the CL a couple of years back. When asked whether Wenger should get the sack I responded asked whether with, “The Wenger only Gooner I know who thinks that is my dad”. Imagine my surprise the next day when my dad appeared on the Nicky Campbell show telling the nation what a liar I am!
Interviewing ex Arsenal men like Willie Young, Theo Foley and Perry Groves (long before the book) have been some of many Gooner highlights but the one that stands out was with page 3 model, Jo Guest. Mark Brindle and I met her in a sports bar in Haymarket, where we drank lager, tested her Arsenal knowledge and Mark asked her if she was wearing knickers! She was on Page three of the Daily Star the next day and as my workmates letched and drooled over her topless photo I pointed at her face and said, “You see those lips? I kissed those last night.”
Peter Le Beau
I have been writing for The Gooner almost since it started publication and my favourite memory was probably when I got into conversation after a match on the train back to Kent with a chap reading The Gooner. He was on the Letters page when I asked him what he thought of it and he criticised the guest editor of that edition for sitting on the fence! “The bloke hasnt got any views of his own,” he said. The guest editor that month was of course me. and I debated whether to get into an argument with him as I thought I’d been quite outspoken! Then I decided to have some fun. “I know that bloke well,” I said, “and I couldn't agree with you more!”
Steve Ashford — Highbury Spy
I am constantly recognised by readers even when I'm on holiday in Spain, but the most memorable was the time we were in the Compton Arms late at night after a home game about two years ago. There was this gorgeous dark haired bird looking at me and my mate Terry, who is a lot better looking than I am. So Terry goes over and a minute later comes back to say that she’s a fan of the Spy and she wants me to go over and give her my autograph. So I went over smiling all over my face and she gets her boobs out (2019 Ed’s note –not completely, but exposing enough flesh to take a signature!) and asks me to sign them with her mascara pen. I didn’t need asking twice and I made sure I did the signature nice and slowly and had to keep starting again as ‘l can do a better one than that”. I think Terry dragged me away about 20 minutes later. Happy days!
Amy Lawrence — Observer Journalist
As an Arsenal anorak with an interest in writing my eye was caught by The Gooner's regular calls for contributors in the early days. However, I was shy and I was only a girl, so I suspected I might be ridiculed. It was therefore after considerable deliberation that I chose the most preposterous match of the season for my first offering — Oldham away, on the plastic pitch, bitterly cold, Arsenal got stuffed 3-1, Niall Quinn's consolation goal was worth it just for the warmth of jumping up and down for a minute. Surely nobody else would want to write about that. Luckily for me, nobody else did, and it was a thrill to see my words published for the very first time. I am forever grateful to The Gooner for the chance to kick start what has been a wonderful career.
Thanks to a request sent in to The Gooner, I was fortunate enough n enough to "sing" (and I use that term lightly such is the paucity of my singing voice) on Arsenal's 1998 FA Cup Final single "Hot Stuff". The highlight for me was one of the other fans at the session arguing at great length with the record's producer as to how best our chants should be used in the final product. It was hugely amusing to watch and I got to be a part of a Top Ten single as it reached number seven 7 in the charts. Who would have thought writing for The Gooner would have so many fringe benefits?
I'd say the biggest buzz was simply getting my first article published especially as I had no idea it was going to be until I saw it in the issue. Whilst it's probably not unique, I’ve enjoyed travelling home on the tube after a game and seeing a total stranger reading an article I’ve written and actually laughing out loud. It's also been quite amusing attending the ‘brainstormer’ gatherings and watching fellow contributors try and fail quite miserably to keep up with the Highbury Spy’s alcoholic intake, a feat that | wouldn’t even dream of attempting!
Writing for The Gooner has provided me with a few media opportunities over the years with my favourite being an appearance on Football Focus to represent fans and debate controversial penalty decisions with Steve Claridge, Paul Parker and Times journalist Patrick Barclay. The best bit though was having ex-Man Utd player Parker ask me for a job. At the time he was trying to get into presenting and he found out that I worked for a TV channel that had a lot of wildlife shows. Hearing him sell himself in the greenroom afterwards as the new David Attenborough is something I'll never forget. My favourite line being, “I've always been into the animals and stuff.” It was a great end to a superb but surreal day.
Over the years I’ve been writing for The Gooner, I’ve also had a couple of Arsenal-related letters published by The Times, been interviewed by the local Twyford Gazette about my ‘piece of Highbury’, had items in the Official Programme and discussed Arsenal mascots on Five Live with Victoria Derbyshire, but the greatest buzzes have come from my 15 minutes of fame on TV. There was the debate with the then Chelsea Fanzine Editor Toby Brown on BBC News 24 about Gooner feelings regarding the Cashley transfer; unfortunately it was on live at 4pm and no one saw it. So, my proudest moment was to appear as ‘Gooner Writer’ on BBC London News at the Highbury Square opening in September, only for a few seconds but sufficient to spotted by quite a few relatives and friends.
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